The Man Who Loved Women (1977)

4/5

L’Homme qui Aimait les Femmes


France ; François Truffaut


Parental Guidance – Sexual Content; Brief Nudity


Bertrand Morane (Charles Denner) is an affable, modern-day Casanova, navigating a life brimming with feminine conquests and one-night stands. Approaching the middle of his life, he feels in a pang of consciousness the need to immortalize the numerous women he won, cherished and ultimately lost, setting out to put it all on paper. From a stern and joyless childhood to his frantic adult sex life, the portrait of genuinely tender, warm charmer emerges. Only too acutely aware that he is incapable to offer true love, Bertrand offered himself as tribute, in exchange of this handicap, to all of womanhood. A young editor (Brigitte Fossey) is enticed by this uncompromising, unsweetened account and, after meeting the womanizer, adds her own spin to the story.

The Man Who Loved Women is the logical conclusion to the New Wave, the point where one of the most important aesthetic and thematic revolution in European cinematic history came full circle. Lacking a linear plot, rocking back and forth in time and space at a luxuriously unhurried pace, this film is more of a collection of vignettes than a conventional narrative. Even the tone, an oddly attractive blend of breeziness, nonchalance and melancholy, is reminiscent of Truffaut and his brother-in-arms Godard’s early works. But it is also the last successful breaths of an avant-garde approach that will slowly and inescapably turn into a stale gimmick to mask the lack of narrative élan or consistence. There are certain hiatuses that already betray some signs of exhaustion, but on the whole The Man Who Loved Women is highly entertaining, subtle romantic comedy with genuinely touching moments.

There is, though, room for improvement. The myriad of feminine figures that crosses Bertrand’s path throughout the movie are, with two notable exceptions, anonymous, pale and forgettable, almost interchangeable, as one of the more morally unyielding character label them. Brigitte Fossey, as an independent but tender white collar and Nelly Borgeaud, an altogether wilder and more irrepressible married woman, stand out with their fizzy and stirring performances. But most of the time the viewer feels as if Bertrand’s journey is a solitary endeavor, while this is the story of a man that shared with his conquests, as fleeting as they might have been, not only his bed, but his life.      

A love declaration to womanhood, The Man Who Loved Women is the fragmentary and imperfect retelling of an atypical life, dedicated in its entirety to the pursuit of the Eternal feminine. This quest for the Holy Grail is at the heart of Truffaut’s films, but unlike The 400 Blows’ troubled teen hero, Morane found his meaning in life: women.

 

L homme qui aimait les femmes

 

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